On a cool Sunday morning, I watched a couple of middle-aged women in circle scarves and cardigans admire a newly painted wall. The women were my fellow classmates in a spray-paint workshop led by acclaimed Charlotte artist Elizabeth Palmisano.
Palmisano had accepted me on short notice as an observer and participant in the class, held at We Rock Charlotte’s Rock on 22nd house in Optimist Park, and had helped me and about a dozen other novices create one long, weird final product. When the bell rang marking the end of the workshop, I had spray painted a purple skeleton stoking a giant fire, lit up by the acronym “T4T,” a reference to trans people who are attracted to other trans people.
Surreal is not a word strong enough to describe the experience of these women ooh-ing and ahh-ing at my punk rock portrait. I was surprised that our collaborative work looked so cool, but I was shocked that these cis women were praising a skeleton with top surgery scars. But maybe I shouldn’t have been.
Proceeds from the class went to We Rock Charlotte, an organization that aims to inspire young people through music, arts and social justice.
Palmisano, a member of the organization’s leadership team, has long championed the arts as both a vehicle for self-exploration and a way of supporting her community. Her work in We Rock’s year-round workshop Amplify! made her an expert at getting children, teens and even adults to let loose creatively.
On Feb. 28, the organization announced its full rebranding, including a name change from Girls Rock Charlotte to We Rock Charlotte. The decision, which director Kelly Finley executed with a grant from marketing agency Wray Ward, was meant to make the program more visibly inclusive to trans and gender nonconforming young people.